A woman rides through a green protected bike lane.
Long Beach, News

Broadway road diet sparks controversy among Long Beach residents

In an attempt to make Broadway safer, changes were made along the road, but many contest that this road diet has actually done so. 

According to the US Department of Transportation, a “road diet” is a street plan that involves removing traffic lanes to reallocate that space for other purposes, including creating protected bike lanes. 

“This street is designed to save lives, [and] slow traffic. We are still working to improve what the traffic engineers designed to have it match with how we all move in corridor,” Long Beach City Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce said in a Facebook post. 

The term road diet is used to refer to these plans because they slim down the amount of available space on the streets. The specifics of how the space on the street is used depends upon the design and the area the road diet is in. 

One of these plans was implemented in Long Beach along Broadway in mid-April 2019 from Redondo to Alamitos Avenues. 

While the intended purpose of the road diet was to make streets safer and lanes easier to share with bicyclists, some residents are upset with the changes. 

The new layout took what was a four-lane street and reduced it to two lanes with protected bike lanes on each side. These changes made lanes narrower and severely reduced parking along the corridor. 

“There’s so much more red [curb] because of it,” said Tom Villarreal, manager of Gallagher’s Pub and Grill on Broadway.

Reduced parking along Broadway has slowed foot traffic for shops along the corridor, and local businesses claim it is hurting them financially.

Residents in Long Beach have begun to protest against the road diet. Signs against it sit in front lawns and hang in local shop windows. These signs claim that the new layout of the street has both reduced parking and “starved businesses.”

When certain road diet designs have been put into place in California, communities have reported safety issues. 

Residents like Villarreal claim that the road diet makes the road more dangerous, and they said they have even seen homeless people hit by cars after the changes on Broadway.

Most complaints about the changes to the street have come from drivers. On the other hand, bikers enjoy the new protected bike lanes. 

Bikers feel accommodated by the city because of the protected bike lanes that the road diet created, and that Long Beach is trying to live up to its reputation of being a bike-friendly city. 

Residents have acknowledged that although the changes may have made things easier for bikers, it is harder for cars to turn onto the street because they only have one lane of traffic to enter, rather than two. 

Delta Zeta is one of a few Long Beach State sororities directly impacted by the road diet, as their sorority home is near Broadway. 

“I almost got into an accident [on Broadway],” said Summer Alvano, a fourth-year Delta Zeta member. 

Police data for accidents in this corridor have shown an increase in collisions. However, city officials maintain that the road diet has improved safety. 

According to Long Beach Police data acquired by the Long Beach Post, there were about 16 accidents on Broadway Road between Jan. 1 and April 30, nearly four per month.

After the road diet was put into place in mid-April, the number of collisions rose to 19 collisions between May 1 and June 30, or almost 10 per month. 

With narrower lanes, cars, bikes and pedestrians all have less space to maneuver. As a result, everyone using the street may require exercise more caution than usual because it is harder to see as cars pull out onto the corridor. 

“There’s no room for error, and people make errors every day,” said Mariha Mitchell, a fourth-year music major who regularly commutes along Broadway. 

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